Entertainment

Gruen star discovers the body's limits in new hit TV show

Todd Sampson tries out MMA fighting during TV series BodyHack.
Todd Sampson tries out MMA fighting during TV series BodyHack.

GOING for a swim is something many Australians take for granted.

Whether in the pool or the ocean, a dip on a hot day is a common ritual on this island continent of ours.

Not for Todd Sampson, though.

Open water is something that makes the man, who has climbed Mount Everest unassisted, quake in his boots.

"I don't have a phobia of water but I don't like it. I live in Bondi and I don't go to the beach," he tells Weekend.

"I learned to scuba dive because I'm scared of water. I thought that would habituate me, but it didn't. I breathe really fast and chew through my air."

So it's not surprising when Sampson says he was not at his most comfortable in scuba gear 20 metres below the surface in the warm clear waters of the coral triangle off Borneo.

"I was struggling to keep my buoyancy and cameras were all there filming me. I look like a frog underwater. But then suddenly this body shoots down with Facebook underwear on and nothing else. He dives straight to the bottom, looks at me with his handmade goggles, gives me a thumbs up and proceeds to walk on the bottom of the ocean floor for four minutes. That blew my mind."

The scene he describes was filmed as part of his new TV series Body Hack.

In the six-part documentary the father-of-two tries to unlock the secrets of some of the world's most extraordinary people, in this case freediving Bajau fisherman Sulbin.

He also spent two weeks training for his first MMA cage fight, lived with hunter gatherers in Tanzania, worked as a Bollywood stuntman and a Himalayan sherpa and pushed himself to the absolute limit both physically and mentally while training with the notorious French Foreign Legion deep in the Amazon jungle - all in the name of informative television.

"It's one thing to observe things when they happen but it's another when it happens to you," he says.

"Everything looks okay on paper but once you get there it's like 'wow this is not easy'."

Two years in the making, the series was not written for natural thriller-seekers and adventurers like Sampson.

"If they watch that's cool but I wrote it for mum sitting at home with the kids," he says. "It's a science show about human potential.

"I made it because I think there are interesting things to learn from it, not because I want to get punched in the face by an MMA fighter."

Sampson spent two days drinking out of a straw after his MMA fight in the US state of New Mexico and doesn't even remember most of the bout because he was concussed.

It was during filming for this first episode of Body Hack when he decided he needed a "safe word", Baltimore, which he would use if any of the challenges ever became too much.

"Throughout this series I thought 'Baltimore' but I never said it," he says.

"My director would pop up during really bad situations and say 'is this Baltimore?' I would bear down on my teeth and give him that face like I wanted to kill him."

 

 

MIND OVER MATTER: Todd Sampson explores extraordinary frontiers in his new TV series.
MIND OVER MATTER: Todd Sampson explores extraordinary frontiers in his new TV series.

That grit and determination helped Sampson to succeed in the business world. An advertising executive by trade, who was twice named Australia's CEO of the Year, Sampson created the successful Earth Hour initiative.

But the Canadian-born Sampson is best known by most Australians as one third of the ABC's sharp-witted Gruen team, who are on our screens every Wednesday night analysing the best, and worst, of advertising, marketing and spin.

"When a million people watched us in the first episode (of this season) with very little advertising it's like, 'okay people love this show'," he says. "When you know that it really does inspire you to want to make it better.

"I'd like to think people appreciate shows that are intellectual as well as entertaining. Sure I watch The Bachelor sometimes; I watch reality TV with my kids but I also force them to watch Brian Cox."

Three years ago he embarked on his first solo TV series Redesign My Brain, which won an AACTA Award and went on to become one of the most-watched Australian science documentaries of all time.

"I got an email two days ago from a young woman in Nigeria who said she uses it (Redesign My Brain) as part of her psychology class to teach kids," he says.

"I was absolutely thrilled to read that.

"A crusade would be going a bit far, but I'm definitely on a mission to get young people more interested in science."

Sampson is on his way to doing just that. Body Hack will be distributed internationally by Discovery Science and is expected to reach tens of millions of overseas viewers.

"I'm very fortunate to have a big platform to do what I love on such a big scale," he says.

"This show is about exploring extraordinary people to see what we can learn from their lives for ours."

He hopes the series, which has been described as Brian Cox meets Bear Grylls, will inspire viewers to make positive changes in their lives, no matter how small.

"I have this strong belief that we can all do much more than we think and science can help us get there. I don't care if you're completely out of shape. You can decode any challenge, any activity and you can be better at it.

"It's those small wins, those small achievements that build who you are."

Todd Sampson's Body Hack premieres on Channel 10 on Tuesday, October 4, at 9pm.

Topics:  editors picks, entertainment, television, todd sampson


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

SunWater to test Callide Dam gates

Callide Dam, May 2015 Photo Emma Clarke / Central Telegraph

Callide Dam will release 30 megalitres of water on Wednesday.

Cattle judging draws crowds at Moura Coal & Country Festival

Grand Champion Bull, Kenrol Jesseppi 2736 (left), exhibited by Kenrol Brahman Stud.

Kenrol Brahman Stud won Most Successful Exhibitor.

Magpie swooping season underway

Adam Burling is getting used to being swooped on his morning ride.

September is the breeding birds' peak swooping month.

Local Partners

Biloela man pleads guilty after Kariboe St lie-down

The man pleaded guilty to charges of being a public nuisance and obstructing a police officer.

$1200 fine for Thangool man caught with marijuana plants

A generic photo of marijuana plants.

A Biloela woman also pleaded guilty to possession of an ice pipe.

SunWater to test Callide Dam gates

Callide Dam, May 2015 Photo Emma Clarke / Central Telegraph

Callide Dam will release 30 megalitres of water on Wednesday.

Cattle judging draws crowds at Moura Coal & Country Festival

Grand Champion Bull, Kenrol Jesseppi 2736 (left), exhibited by Kenrol Brahman Stud.

Kenrol Brahman Stud won Most Successful Exhibitor.

Magpie swooping season underway

Adam Burling is getting used to being swooped on his morning ride.

September is the breeding birds' peak swooping month.

Breast cancer survivors give back to supporters

SUPPORTERS: From left: Jane Henney, Tessa Ives, Mandy Sanderson, Lyn Witham and Sandra Grummit at September 3's BCNA fundraiser.

Biloela fundraiser brings in more than $4200 for BCNA.

Cancer fight gets UGLY at Top Pub

CLOSE CUT: Steve Bates (right) takes a pair of clippers to Peter Law.

Duty manager Kerry McAuliffe raises over $9000.

Labor Senator slams O'Dowd on backpacker tax

Queensland Senator Anthony Chisholm.

Senator Anthony Chisholm says Ken O'Dowd wants "a bob each way".

Classic car auction draws buyers from US, Dubai

"He wants everyone to enjoy the cars, the collection got too big'

Emily Blunt's (almost) singing career

Emily Blunt nearly became the British Britney Spears.

Angelina is blocking calls from Brad Pritt

Angelina Jolie has reportedly blocked Brad Pitt's number.

Apocalyptica 'seek and destroy' sceptics with 'master' set

Apocalyptica play Max Watts in Brisbane on their Shadowmaker Tour.

Review of final show of Apocalyptica's tour

Rebecca Hall doesn't own a TV

Newspapers, yes. Television, not so much

Jaime King 'terrified' by son's heart surgery

Jamie King was "terrified" when her son went in for heart surgery.

John Mayer's advice for Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes has revealed John Mayer gave him advice

Property 200m from ocean selling for just over $100K

BEACHCOMBER PARK: Work has started on a new $19.2 million development at Toogoom.

The estate's developer is offering huge discounts for early buyers.

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

First stages of $25 million housing development underway

New development on Madsen Rd - The Springs.

The blocks of land are much bigger than usual

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.

Rocky proves prime real estate in latest REIQ report

Kas Woch sold this Wood St home in Depot Hill for $107,000 in August.

A new investor's market as Rocky house prices hit lowest in state

Sunshine Beach property breaks real estate record

The property overlooks Sunshine Beach, as the backyard lawn meets the sand.

Sunshine Beach mansion sale smashes real estate record